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Grace Lutheran Church
660 Frances Lane
Ashland, OR 97520
Phone: 541.482.1661
Fax: 541.482.2860
Contact: Pastor Tim Cartwright

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Friends of “GRACELINE” and Grace



"When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.'  Mark 5:15

I worked on a National Park fire crew for five summers.  We were known as the B-League, minor league firefighters.  The neighboring (not neighborly) Forest Service crews were the major league, bit hitters.  We took care of Lassen Park's fire suppression needs.  The big crews took care of the massive forests.  Isn't it funny how pecking orders surface in any area of life!

During warm summer evenings, before the fire season grew hot, intense, and urgent, the various fire crews of the region would field softball teams and play "casual" (friendly) games after dinner and after work.  If the truth be told the games were anything but cordial.  We always seemed to be addressing the imposed "pecking order" as we would swing for the fence and stab line drives in the field.

Because of the things one learns in fire school, friendships were forged between the various suppression entities.  One learned how to handle the tools of the fire trade.  Pulaski's and McLeod's, shovels and chain saws, piss-pumps and water bladders.  Fire fighters learned about a fire crew's chain of command.  Crew bosses would, could, and did save lives.  There were many moments on frenetic fires when smoke burning eyes and lungs would be screaming for fresh air.  A good crew boss would direct the crew to a "break through" place where ash would give way to air, delicious unadulterated oxygen.

Being in good spirits, especially when great cultural forces are at times dark and foreboding, heavy, is a daunting task, saying nothing of personal challenges and considerations.  Contact with God, reading Scripture, daily confession and forgiveness are still the ways to a good spirit.  Puncturing the smoky layers of either intense anxiety, or low grade angst, comes by asking the searching question.  "Who are you?"

It is the same with the demons that wake us up in the middle of the night (or snap us from our mid-day daydream), disruptions which trouble our sleep and drive us to further insulation by pills, medication, and behaviors which tear down rather than build up.  We know that things are right in our souls, but we have become so detached from our souls that we often do not know what is really bothering us.  In the middle of our nights we speak to God, seek his mercy, bare our deepest selves in our often silent petitions, and through God's forgiveness our lives are re-framed, healed and made whole.

Jesus came upon a man who was possessed (owned) by a myriad of demons (forces that had occupied his heart, mind, emotions, and life.)  He had been chained to the walls of a tomb-cave.  He was not a Jew like Jesus, he was a foreigner in his own land, and Jesus was the visitor.  The Savior visited that sepulcher, punctured the grave.  The man who had ripped himself free from his shackles was nicknamed "legion" (many) because his personal spiritual darkness was large and multi-faceted.  With his freedom he had grabbed sharp stones and was intent on cutting himself to death, a death he did not even know he would die.  Jesus entered that place of chaos and loud dying and calmed the naked, crazed man.  When the neighbors saw the result, the legion being dressed, spit-shined, clean and in his right mind, they did not celebrate, they feared.  What powerful force had remedied this man?  The breakthrough for the legion was hinged on one fact, and one fact  alone.  Jesus entered the fray with a word more powerful than the suffocating power of darkness, chains, stones, and a crazed mind.  The best phrase of this text is "who had been possessed"...a past tense verb.

Perhaps our personal "breakthroughs" hinge upon crew bosses who know what to do with our smoke heavy lungs and tear-filled eyes; crew bosses who direct us to places of fresh air and new beginnings, forgiveness found in Jesus' own empty and open tomb. 

Suppressing fire,  Pr. C.




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